The draft process provides an immense amount of information to fans and analysts. We have the capability to absorb workout numbers at the combine and pro days, production numbers like receiving yards, touchdowns or pass attempts, advanced statistics like sacks given up or yards per route run and even information like player age.
All of that together can be overwhelming, not to mention the hundreds of prospect videos on draft breakdown, the skill breakdowns from numerous draft experts and the evolving injury situation for dozens of players.
Combining all of that for 300 or so players is fraught with potential problems, but I did it anyway.
I’ve been updating the analytic profiles for players in the draft with workout data culled from the NFL combine and a few recent pro days. As a result, I’ve got new player data to generate mock drafts with, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. These players were selected based on four criteria: whether or not the early picks fulfilled a need, their college production, age and position-specific athleticism.
Round 2, Pick 48: Taylor Moton, OT Western Michigan
Taylor Moton ends up with a pretty generous production score despite having played against Tarell Basham, T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel throughout the season. He has the third-highest Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Efficiency of all draft-eligible tackles, with only eight total pressures allowed on 427 pass blocking snaps. Even after adjusting for his age and average athleticism, he ends up having one of the better tackle profiles early in the draft.
Typically, these drafts have almost always selected Roderick Johnson, but aside from that being boring, he may not be as good as the analytics imply. He will be interesting to track going forward.
Round 3, Pick 79: Marcus Williams, S Utah
There are significant questions to ask of Marcus Williams’ analytic profile; his coverage statistics are so spectacular that they broke the model, but his run defense statistics have been sparse at best. In some respects, that’s a bit overrated—he has some big whiffs on film, but has fewer missed tackles per tackle attempt than every other safety in the class and more stops in the run game than Malik Hooker or Justin Evans.
His athletic testing isn’t as good as I would have expected; some limited speed and a poor-ish short shuttle score are counterbalanced by excellent explosion (a vertical leap of 43.5 and broad jump of 10’9″) and though that doesn’t drag him down, it doesn’t help him.
At the end of the day, the Vikings could use someone who allowed -10.5 adjusted yards per target in coverage. The next best safeties allowed 0.21 (Jadar Johnson), 0.58 (Malik Hooker) and 0.78 (Tedric Thompson). That difference is astounding.
Round 3, Pick 86: Ethan Pocic, C, Louisiana State
Pocic doesn’t have astounding production for a center; in fact it’s pretty average. 11 pressures (no sacks or hits) on 336 pass blocking snaps isn’t notable, but his athleticism is. Relatively quick movement, despite some shortcomings in the short shuttle—as well as his young age (he’ll finish the season just over the age of 22)—give him a positive analytic profile that bolsters strong film-room work.
Round 4, Pick 120: Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
I identified Hendrickson as a player well worth watching given his incredible production in college; and his combine performance was excellent. Perhaps not quite so spectacular as Myles Garrett’s, but definitely well above average for a successful defensive end in the NFL. His excellent three-cone time—strongly indicative of excellent edge defense—highlights his workout scores, and his agility overall was among the best of the performers there—only behind T.J. Watt, Derek Barnett, Tyus Bowser and Vince Biegel.
Hendrickson has the best Pass Rusher Productivity of any of the pass rushers in the draft. He has the athletic ability to match.
Round 4, Pick 128: Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State
I initially wasn’t too excited about Nico Siragusa, but his pass protection capability has been much better than advertised, with the second-fewest pressures per snap allowed of any guard in the draft, and the best score of any legitimately draftable guards by quite a margin.
He’s in a very friendly offense for pressure protection, but even after adjusting for that, he comes out well ahead of his competition. Add to that his best-in-class combine scores (for guards, that mostly means an excellent broad jump, but also points for vertical leap and short shuttle times), and Siragusa seems like a no-brainer at this pick.
Round 5, Pick 160: Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
Jeremy McNichols isn’t a name generating that much hype in this impressive running back class, but he’d earn it in most years. He may seem like an odd choice to complement Jerick McKinnon as he’s not a power back, but pure pluggers can be found in undrafted free agency—McNichols is a three-down back that can immediately challenge for a starting role.
His athleticism is above-average for a running back and his production is astounding, even after accounting for his competition. His yards-after-contact per attempt is better than the averages put together by Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, D’Onta Foreman and Samaje Perine while his competition-adjusted rushing yardage ranks among the best as well.
23 touchdowns on the ground and another 4 in the air are difficult to ignore—he leads his peers in touchdowns per touch and that may not be an accident.
Round 6, Pick 199: KD Cannon, WR Baylor
The Vikings have quickness with Stefon Diggs and hope to have size with Laquon Treadwell, as well as general athletic versatility from Adam Thielen. They don’t have raw speed.
Cannon ran a 4.41 and looks even faster on film, if that’s believable. His outstanding explosion scores also speak well to his generalized athleticism and what he has put together athletically so far fits the prototype of a successful smaller receiver.
Add in the fact that he’s a top ten receiver in team-adjusted yards per route run and a consistent deep threat and he could carve out a valuable role for an offense now guided by a coordinator used to having DeSean Jackson.
Round 7, Pick 232: Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
One of the youngest players in the draft, Lee stands out in the analytic profiles as perhaps the best value late on day three. His athletic profile (thus far; he didn’t complete all the drills) seems to be fairly average and his production isn’t remarkable for a draft-eligible linebacker, but his ability to generate that production and put up those athletic scores while younger than almost all of his peers is.
With his size, aggressiveness and tackling capability, he could be a valuable special-teams addition that might be able to fill in at middle linebacker if the need arises.